(LOS ANGELES, Nov. 7, 2007) — Additional passport rules for U.S. citizens are scheduled to take effect next summer and will require American travelers to carry passports on every international trip—even car trips to Mexico or Canada. According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, citizens who need to get or renew a passport should do so now instead of waiting until next spring, when a late passport could interfere with travel plans.
Earlier this year, the first phase of new passport requirements caused months-long application backlogs at the U.S. State Department and created headaches for many international travelers.
"The fall season is typically one of the lowest demand times of the year for passport processing," said Diana Meinhold, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services. "Even travelers who aren't sure whether they'll be taking an international trip next summer should consider getting their passports now, when they're likely to finish the process relatively quickly."
Beginning in January 2008, the State Department is once again likely to be processing unusually high numbers of passport applications because of the new passport requirements.
As of this year, all U.S. citizens traveling by air are now required to carry a U.S. passport to popular vacation spots that had not previously required them, including Canada, Mexico, Caribbean nations and countries in Central and South America. Beginning next summer (no official date has yet been announced), cruise and vehicle passengers to any country outside the U.S. will also be required to carry passports on their trips.
"The new passport requirements for 2008 are likely to take some travelers by surprise and could create another backlog of passport applications," Meinhold said. "Our travel agents are advising their clients to get their passports processed or renewed now, while the typical processing period is between four and six weeks."
Citizens who wish to renew or apply for a new passport must complete a passport application or a passport renewal application and obtain two passport photos, which can be taken at any Auto Club office for a fee of $8 for members and $15 for non-members, plus tax. Passport applications are also available at any Auto Club office or U.S. Post Office.
First-time passports cost $82 for citizens less than 16 years of age, and $97 for those 16 years old and older. Passport renewal costs $67. For an additional fee, there are services to expedite passport applications and reduce the processing time to three weeks or less. Passport expediting services are available through the Auto Club, the State Department and other private passport services.
First-time applicants for a passport, or those with expired or lost passports, must submit their application in person to a passport processing location such as a post office during the hours that service is available.
U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. Passports can be renewed by mail by sending a renewal application, the most recent passport (as long as it is no more than 15 years old) and two identical passport photographs to the State Department.
In addition to passport photos and applications, travelers can obtain a wide range of needed services at the Auto Club, including international driving permits, Mexico auto insurance, and travel insurance. AAA Travel professionals are available to help both members and non-members plan domestic and international tours and cruises at no additional charge, as well as other services such as car rentals and hotel bookings. Members receive special discounts or benefits on selected travel packages, and complimentary AAA maps and TourBooks?.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at www.AAA.com.